Orange’s ‘invisible’ homeless forced to shelter in sites like the old hospital

OUT OF SIGHT: Fusion Central West team leader Bev Rankin says homeless people are known to use the old Orange Base Hospital site as a shelter. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0810homeless1SEEKING refuge in the old Orange Base Hospital site, under bushes and on other people’s couches – homelessness in Orange is an invisible problem that community organisations say needs to be recognised.

Fusion Central West team leader Bev Rankin said homelessness was not only when people were sleeping on the street in a cardboard box, but also included couch surfing, living in a car, or in staying in an overcrowded location.

It is this varied definition that Mrs Rankin said only contributed to the Orange community’s ignorance of homelessness.

“It’s partly because of the climate, you don’t always see people on the streets, but I think also people don’t walk around saying, ‘I’m needy, I need help’. There’s shame, people don’t want to present [themselves] like that,” Mrs Rankin said.

She said people often sought refuge in the old Orange Base Hospital and other abandoned buildings, in underground car parks, under bushes, on a friend’s couch or verandah, or “basically anywhere there is shelter”.

Housing Plus, which run the Wirree crisis refuge for 10 adults and seven other transitional properties, says its shelters are full the majority of the time with long waiting lists.

It states 119 people in Orange are homeless at any given time, based on figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Veritas House manager Jody Pearce said the organisation provided crisis accommodation for six young people at the Emerge refuge in Orange each night and helped an additional 24 youth on average every day through other programs, as well as providing support to young people and their families to prevent homelessness.

Mrs Rankin said while it was good there were some accommodation options available in Orange, she said more help had to be made available.

“I think we need to be asking ourselves how do we provide adequate accommodation for people who need it?” she said.

“It’s also making other services more well known. We have FoodCareor some others like the Anglicare Food pantry, so there is help available, but we need more awareness.”

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